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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Williams sisters give tennis masterclass

Photo Titled Serena Strikes
Serena Williams battles Elena Dementieva for a place in the Ladies' final.

We seem to have been here before: another Wimbledon final, another Williams family showdown. For the second year running and the fifth time in all, Venus and Serena will contest the ladies’ final on Saturday.

The sisters are as close as sisters can be and yet they appear, in many ways, to be polar opposites. Venus is tall and rangy, a physique that has helped her become the best grass court player of her generation, while Serena is shorter, more muscular and more obviously aggressive in her approach to the pursuit of Grand Slam titles. Not that Venus is a shrinking violet on the court – far from it – it is just that she tends to keep her thoughts and her emotions to herself.

The two sisters also took vastly differing routes to their Saturday appointment. Serena played the best match of the Ladies’ Championship so far – and the longest recorded for a semi-final here – by beating Elena Dementieva 6-7, 7-5, 8-6 while Venus took only 51 minutes to beat Dinara Safina 6-1, 6-0.

The sisters were, however, united in one thing: they both put on a masterclass in the art of being a champion.

For Serena, it was a case of passion and courage being just enough to bring her through the toughest of tests. Dementieva ran her ragged, she harassed and harried the world number two and she proved herself to be a fighter every bit as determined as Serena. And Serena still won. Just. But that is what champions do.

For Dementieva, the fact that she was able to match Serena for nearly three hours was some comfort while the fact that she had served well – never one of her strengths in the past – and kept pace with the raw power of her rival was a positive sign. “For sure I feel disappointed but it was a very close match,” Dementieva said. “But I think the way I was playing is more important than the result.”

Safina was not able to pick many positive bones out of her thrashing at the hands of Venus. The world number one, who is still desperately looking for her first Grand Slam title, was absolutely walloped and she knew it. “I think she gave me a pretty good lesson today,” Safina said.

So that left Venus and Serena to go home to the house they are sharing in Wimbledon and to try to plan their respective campaigns for Saturday. To the outsider observer, it sounds like an impossible task – most sisters can fall out over the smallest things and an illicitly borrowed bottle of shampoo can cause a major family argument.

How on earth can two sisters ponder playing each other for the biggest prize in the sport? Simple: spend 12 years of your life playing your sister in tournaments around the world and just get used to it. It does, apparently get a little easier with time.

“It's different [now to when we were young] because we're different players,” Venus said. “We both play such a similar game. I mean, we had the same teacher. But what I can tell you the same is the respect that we have for each other on and off the court is the same.”

Yes, we have been here before but, rest assured, Venus and Serena know how it is done. Last year’s final was one of their most competitive and Venus won. This year, Serena wants revenge. Tune in on Saturday for episode 21 of the Venus and Serena show.

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